Sunday, May 20, 2018

Now That's A Week

So sorry for the onslaught of blogs this weekend.  But as I've actually been working every day at the NCRS, I'm tired at night.  And that is blog time, so it had to wait till now.  Anyway, things are growing as this pic of the orchard shows.  The apple trees are now in bloom.  Jay and Renae have been keeping up with the fertilizer, herbicide and fungicide applications.    
 Wheat is really growing now with an occasional warm and sunny day.
 Production and plot corn is all planted and coming up to varied weather for sure.  It has been warm and sunny then cold and rainy.
Albert happened to stop by the NCRS on Friday.  Well he should know that if you stop by, you are going to be put to work.  Come on, get that bag of soybeans loaded!
 Yes, with the corn all in, it was time to shift to soybeans.  Here is Quinten at the fertilizer wagon waiting to load the next treatment into the planter.  This is really quite a job to keep up with the correct mix and correct treatment number.  But Quinten is a pro at this after several summers of work.
 And off Tim goes on this no-till soybean plot on Farm 6.
Dr. Zouheir had a busy week as we've seen.  Now here he is taking soil samples while Tim and Quinten get ready to start planting.  This is an interesting plot as he will determine what effects may have carried over from PrimAgro applied the previous year.  And will it compound with more application this year?  
So many questions....but that's our job.

Nitrogen Plots for AgroExpo

So the AgroExpo coming up on August 14 and 15 will be more than just a walk around to see cool stuff.  You can also see cool stuff and learn something.  In fact, the best place for that will be at the Learning Center where several different companies are collaborating to  provide educational demonstrations to show the latest in the scientific world of farming.  Like here for instance.  One of the issues of nitrogen applications is keeping it in the soil for the crop to use.  But nitrogen can convert to ammonia and be lost to volatility.  Dr. Zouheir has previously shown how High NRG-N and addition of eNhance to 28% can reduce ammonia loss.  Plots were established last Friday to show this in the Learning Center.  Here I am applying different nitrogen products to the 4 row corn plots.  I'm using a pressurized backpack sprayer to apply the different products through the spray boom onto the ground.  By the way, this sprayer was my first research purchase back in 1992.  And both of us are still going stronger than ever.  Well it seems that way to me anyway.  That thing is heavy!
After spraying, Dr. Zouheir installs his passive ammonia capture devices, three per plot.  He will use a weak sulfuric acid solution to capture the ammonia as it escapes.  The solution is analyzed for ammonia content as a representation of volatility loss.  Intern Cami helps him load the samples into the PVC tubes.
 Here is a view of the  sampler.  The sulfuric acid is in the suspended jar.  A lid will seal it off.
And here is a view of their work.  There are nine plots and three samplers per plot.  Zouheir will collect the solution for analysis over the upcoming weeks to see how the different products compare in their ability to hold nitrogen in the soil.
Results will be charted out for the AgroExpo.  We are also doing a similar experiment at another location as a follow-up to previous testing.  So there, you learned something already.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Potato Plots Making Us Hungry

Last week one of the potato experiments was planted.  Potato plots are quite a bit shorter than the corn and soybean plots which can be several hundred feet long.  But they are no less accurate due to the TLC that Dr. Zouheir provides.  He likes to plant by hand in uniform spacing achieved with a rope with tape on it.  Seed pieces are sorted for uniformity.  Previously he has achieved 100% uniform emergence, so who can argue with that?  To do this a trench is made with the planter.  Seed pieces are placed, and then I use the backpack sprayer to put a band of the appropriate fertilizer several inches over from the potato and on both sides.  Then they are covered up and then we stand back to wait for emergence.
In the picture Zouheir and Alex set the rope for the next plot while Jenna and Cami lug the potatoes ahead for planting.  Quinten works ahead to make the trenches.  What's the test about?  Well it's a second year of PrimAgro P and K compared to Pro-Germinator and Kalibrate, C-Tech timing and also a new foliar P product will be tested.  Can't wait to see how this ends!

Something New at the NCRS

 So there are some new experiments at the NCRS this spring: organic fertilizers.  Who would have though that?  Well with the success of the organic biological product C-Tech, there are now some AgroLiquid organic experimental fertilizers with nutrient content.  These are liquid of course.  Part of the experimental process is to compare to commercially available products which is what we are doing here.  Most of those other products are dry, so we calibrated a spinner spreader to apply 1300 lb/A of this 4-3-2 organic chicken litter product.  Now that's quite a load.  Seasonal NCRS employee Quinten, who will be a senior at MSU, loads the spreader while interns Jake and Alex make sure none is spilled.
 This is a different application method, but with GPS guidance it went on as planned.  Alex drew the short straw and got to turn the spreader on and off and make sure it flowed through the spreader.
It did a good job of even application over the plot.
 After spreading the ground was worked and then planted.  The test liquids were applied with the planter.  If successful, this will be an interesting new market.
This is the planted field, but where are the rows?  Well another new thing this year is drag chains behind the planter press wheels.  Tim is checking that out this year as they have been said to give more uniform seed coverage and more uniform emergence.  Well that would be nice, but I do miss visible rows in my pictures.  I'll get over it.  Maybe.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Coming Up Cold

So after a productive four days of planting last week, it started raining Friday morning.  And after temperatures near 80 for several days, it also turned cold as shown on my Flexometer.
I stopped over on Farm 5 to check on one of the first fields planted the previous week.  I saw some emerged corn and hopped out in the rain to get a quick pic of the row on the edge.  Although it was cold now in the morning, surely by afternoon it would warm up so they could continue growing.
Or maybe not.  (They probably won't show these temperature pictures in the Michigan tourist brochures. Come to a state where daytime temps are still in the 30's in mid-May!)
But we love it here.  Having grown corn here at the NCRS for the past 23 seasons, I'm pretty confident it will be the best crop ever.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

A Little Help Here.....

So Tuesday was busy as usual.  Only we had some extra help from our summer interns on their first day at the NCRS.  They are all from MSU and more information to follow.  But so far they are a great bunch.  And as usual, they were put right to work.  In the last post I showed our dry fertilizer spreader.  Well here is intern Alex applying some potash on some plots on Farm 7.  It does a great job of uniform application as the inset pics show.  (This picture is also for those uninformed people who question our research intent and integrity with conventional products in our plots.  Our goal is to prove performance through accurate testing of AgroLiquid against standards.  It does no good to cheat.  So there!)  And don't worry, intern Jake will be prominently featured later.
 Also on the farm was planting corn seed plots for the AgroExpo.  One of the pains of this operation in the past was vacuuming out the planter boxes with a shop vac and then dumping the seeds back into the seed bags.  Well after some inspiration from the Pioneer folks that planted some silage plots last year, Tim and Ron conspired to make our own quick and easy system.  And of course it changed our lives.  Now with  powerful suction the seed goes into that shop vac cone base.....
 ...and pull out the bottom door and it falls into the bag.  Then load the seed for the next plot. Interns Cami and Jenna don't know how easy they have it compared to the old days.  But that's progress.
 And off goes Tim on the next plot.  Make sure you come to the AgroExpo on August 14 and 15 to see this and so much more. 
And of course it will change your life.  (For the better that is.)

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Planting Progress Week 1

So at least we started planting in April.  Well it was the last day on Monday, but April none the less after the delayed start due to winter's long hold.  It would be a busy week putting in our research plots.  Here is Tim planting a corn fertilizer experiment with our newly enhanced planter with a number of Precision Planting options.
Have you ever seen a seed firmer with lights?  This is the Precision Planting Smart Firmer.  It will give you soil temperature, soil moisture and organic matter.  And it logs it into the planting map so that you can recall the data later to evaluate overall field conditions and correlate that to yield later.  The lights are a nice touch.
 While Tim plants the test plots, Jeff plants all of the production acres.  Now he doesn't have a Smart Firmer, but Jeff is happy with his dark seed firmer I'm sure.
 So I actually did something to help this week.  I mean other than my usual taking pictures and complaining  I actually applied dry fertilizer to test plots.  We compare AgroLiquid against a variety of standards like conventional fertilizers.  Also we are evaluating combination treatments.  We are always fair in establishing plots, as it does no good to cheat.  We have a well built air system for dry fertilizer application.  It is a Gandy box system with a custom built PTO driven turbine.  Very nice.
 This field had a cover crop established last year after wheat harvest that included tillage radish.  You can see the holes they produced as they penetrated deep into the soil to loosen any compaction.  You can also see evenly applied urea.
 We had some terribly strong winds on Friday with gusts over 50 miles per hour.  We rarely get that, and so this old dead tree blew over and created a road block.  I was trapped for hours till the county truck came by with a chain saw.
 Also on Friday we made beds for lettuce again.  Recall in a post from last September how we had all different kinds of lettuce in cooperative variety plots with a grower from Michigan that also is one of the largest lettuce growers in Florida.  Showing the virtues of AgroLiquid fertilizer applied through drip irrigation.  So we will soon be in year 2 testing.
And that was all in a single week.  Planting is progressing well, but plenty more to come.